Cloud computing – the sharing of resources and information over the Internet – has taken a giant leap forward since the surge in popularity of smartphones, tablets and the desire to sync data across multiple devices. Revenue generated by cloud services is projected to approach $152.1 billion by 2014, according to Forbes magazine. This makes for a competitive market and gives end users a wide variety of software choices. At the time of publication, most software vendors are marketing their products using the “freemium” business model, which allows you to use the basic product free, and you can upgrade to premium versions with additional features for a small fee. All versions provide robust encryption and security.
SugarSync (sugarsync.com) syncs documents, pictures, music and videos across multiple platforms. Depending on your needs, you might choose the free 5GB plan or upgrade to as much as 500GB. SugarSync installs on almost any device: Windows, Mac and all mobile devices including Android, Blackberry, Apple products, Symbian and Windows Mobile. After syncing, you can access files in your account on the SugarSync website, in the SugarSync file manager or on any device to which you have chosen to sync. The Magic Briefcase feature automatically syncs all your devices – just drag and drop. Upload photos seamlessly; simply take the picture from the Sugarsync app, save and it will sync automatically. External drives are not supported.
Box (box.com) syncs your documents with your PC, iPhone, iPad and Android devices. It is not available on the Mac unless you upgrade to a business or enterprise account. Besides syncing files seamlessly, Box has a useful add-on called Box for Office, which integrates Box into Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and Excel, permitting you to save or open any document directly to or from Box. The secure Box website contains a record of all recent updates. The free version provides 50GB of storage space, but the maximum file size of 100MB makes larger file uploads problematic. Upgrading to a business account for a nominal monthly fee gives you 1,000GB of storage and a 2GB upload limit.
Syncplicity (syncplicity.com) calls its cloud syncing service a “Virtual Private Cloud.” The free version offers 2GB of storage but only allows you to sync two devices. Windows, Mac, iPhone, iPad and Android devices are supported, and no limits are imposed on the size or number of files. On your Apple device, you can set a four-digit password on Syncplicity; if the password is entered incorrectly 10 times, the data will be erased. You can also unlink your mobile device from your account and remotely wipe data. Upgrading from the freemium version will give you access to 50GB of cloud storage and support for up to five devices.
Dropbox (dropbox.com) is available for Mac, Windows, Linux and mobile devices including Apple, BlackBerry and Android. Founded in 2007, Dropbox has caught on in the tech world, and many apps such as 1Password, Documents To Go and QuickOffice have integrated Dropbox. On February 23, 2012, Dropbox began allowing users to automatically upload photos and videos from Android phones; the same capability will soon be available for Apple phones. The basic Dropbox plan provides 2GB of free space. You can upgrade to 50GB or 100GB, and discounted annual fees are available.
OnLive Desktop (desktop.onlive.com) is a new cloud-syncing service that launched in January 2012. Upload a file from your PC and the file will sync to the documents folder in the OnLive desktop app on your iPad. OnLive is unique because you can create Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents, browse the Web using Windows 7 and utilize the full version of Microsoft Office through the desktop, in addition to accessing and editing your saved files. Available only on the iPad as of this writing, plans are in the works to offer the app on PC, Mac and Android devices. The free version includes 2GB of storage space. An upgrade plan is available that offers faster cloud service but no additional space.